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07 March 2010

Private Ralph Leslie Broadbent of Cherry Gardens

Ralph Leslie Broadbent was a son of Henry Field Broadbent and Mary Hill Broadbent (nee Hughes), and was born at Wandearah, SA (south of Port Pirie) in 1895. He attended Victor Harbor Public School, was a keen sportsman and worked as a farmer before the war.

He enlisted on 16 June 1916 at the age of 20, and after a short stint in a training unit in England, joined 'Cork' Company of the 43rd Battalion in France in January 1917. After several months of static trench warfare, Ralph fought in his first major action during the Battle of Messines in June 1917.

On 31 July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, the 43rd Battalion was ordered to capture six German posts near Warneton, Belgium. 'Cork' Company was tasked to capture three of the posts, and took many casualties during the capture of one located in a ruined windmill. During the attack or the subsequent German and Australian counter-attacks, Ralph was killed in action. 44 members of the battalion were killed that day. His body could not be located after the battle, and his name is inscribed on panel 27 of the Menin Gate Memorial near Ypres, Belgium, along with many other Australians with no known grave.

After the war the town of Whyalla (previously called Hummock's Hill) named a street (Broadbent Terrace) in his honour. His name is also inscribed on the State National Memorial, the Whyalla memorial and the Cherry Gardens Methodist Church Roll of Honour. In describing her son for the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Mary Broadbent quoted from a letter sent to her by Ralph's platoon commander in which he described him as 'a splendid companion to have nearby when things were hot, who always set a splendid example of cheerfulness, even under most adverse conditions'.

Photograph: Courtesy State Records of South Australia

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